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How to use Turkish Airlines miles (via Citi) for cheap business class flights

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There are several reasons why a U.S.-based flyer might be interested in the Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles program.

First, Turkish is a huge airline flying to almost 300 destinations and serving 9 U.S. cities from its Istanbul hub:

  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Houston
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • New York (JFK)
  • San Francisco
  • Washington, DC (Dulles)

Second, Turkish generally has very good award availability (including elusive Business Class seats).

Third, the Turkish Miles and Smiles award chart is quite reasonable for Business Class redemptions – only 90,000 miles to Europe and 94,000 to the Middle East for a roundtrip flight.

Last but not least, Turkish has recently been added as a Citi ThankYou® airline transfer partner, which means that getting Turkish miles has become much easier than it was before.

Awards on Turkish Airlines flights are easy to book online, and we’ll focus on those here. Awards on Star Alliance partner airlines using Turkish miles aren’t worth your time unless you’re adventurous and patient, since they can only be completed via a local ticket office.

How much do awards cost?

Turkish Airlines has a calculator that allows you to price your itinerary in miles based on where you want to fly.

Awards can be one of two prices – the lower “Limited Capacity” price or the higher “Guaranteed Seat” price, which is prohibitively high.

Here is the Turkish Airlines award chart for “Limited Capacity” awards to places Turkish flies from the U.S. One way awards are half the price of a roundtrip, and you can see the full award chart on the Turkish Airlines site.

tk-chart

Turkish adds a fuel surcharge to many awards, but it’s smaller than what most European airlines add to their tickets.

If you want to get an idea how much you’re going to pay in miles and fuel surcharge, use the Turkish Airlines award calculator. For example, the fuel surcharge for a roundtrip flight between Washington, DC and Istanbul costs about $300 in either Economy or Business Class. It will be higher for other flights originating further west in the U.S.

tk-calculator

How to find Turkish award space

For a simple one-way or roundtrip ticket with fixed dates, you can search for awards on the Turkish Airlines website once you set up a free account.

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The next screen gives you an option of several flights.

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Pick the one that works for you and click “Select this flight.”

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The next screen will give you a total price in miles and cash. Provided that you have sufficient miles in your account, click “Continue” and complete the transaction.

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If you want to search several dates at a time, you can try doing an award search on the United Airlines website. United will show Turkish Airlines flights, and you can see a calendar of up to two months at a time. There’s a ‘show only nonstop’ box to check that narrows your search to nonstop flights, which makes it easy to check for dates that might have Turkish Airlines awards available on a route like Miami to Istanbul.

What you see on United.com is usually available to book at the ‘Limited Capacity’ price with Turkish miles.

tk-ua-mia-ist

TIP: If your travel plans take you beyond Istanbul, check your legs separately. For example, if you fly from Houston to Hong Kong, check availability for Houston to Istanbul and Istanbul to Hong Kong.

What are the best deals?

U.S. to Istanbul for 90,000 miles in Business Class

Since Turkish prices most of its Business Class awards only 50% more than Economy, the best values come with Business Class tickets.

A Business Class flight between the U.S. and Istanbul costs 45,000 miles per one way and 90,000 miles per round trip. The same trip using United MileagePlus® miles will cost you 70,000 miles per one way and 140,000 miles per round trip. In addition to the comfortable lie-flat beds, superb meals, and extensive entertaining options, you will also have access to the epic Turkish lounge at Ataturk Airport, which many consider the best Business Class lounge in the world.

TIP: If you are a New York-based single traveler, try to fly on an A330-300 aircraft, with a 2x2x2 configuration. This way you can get a seat in the center section of the plane where neither you nor your seatmate will be forced to climb over one another. Unfortunately, Turkish mostly flies the 777-300 between the U.S. and Turkey with a 2x3x2 configuration, making a middle seat in Business Class a possibility.

The surcharge depends on the U.S. departure city you choose: for example, $380 roundtrip from New York and $455 from Los Angeles.

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tk-ist-lax

U.S. to the rest of Europe for 90,000 miles in Business Class

You will pay the same miles to anywhere in Europe as you do to Istanbul, and you have a free stopover on a roundtrip award ticket.

Keep in mind, however, that any deviation from a simple one way or roundtrip itinerary will result in a higher fuel surcharge. So expect to pay taxes and fees for the leg between the U.S. and Istanbul plus the leg between Istanbul and whatever your final destination is. For example, the cash portion for an award ticket between New York and Paris will be $540.

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tk-cdg-jfk

U.S. to the Middle East for 94,000 miles

A roundtrip flight to the Middle East in Business Class costs only 94,000 miles, a bargain compared to other airlines. United MileagePlus will charge you 160,000 miles roundtrip, although there won’t be any fuel surcharges.

Turkish, meanwhile, will charge you $524 in taxes and fees for the roundtrip flight between Chicago and Tel Aviv (in Business Class).

tk-ord-tlv

tk-ord-tlv tk-tlv-ord

U.S. to North and Central Africa for 98,000 miles and India for 104,000 miles in Business Class

Turkish puts India, Nepal, Bangladesh and former Soviet Asia republics in the Central Asia region, and so a roundtrip award flight to India, for example, will cost you 104,000 miles in Business Class roundtrip. This is an incredible value that not many other airlines can beat, although finding a non-stop flight from Istanbul to Delhi or Mumbai can be a challenge.

You can also fly to Morocco, Tanzania, and Kenya for 98,000 miles roundtrip in Business Class. A flight between Boston and Nairobi via Istanbul will cost you $594 in cash on top of the miles.

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tk-nbo-bos

Other Turkish redemptions are not bad either. For example, you can pay 135,000 miles for flights to South Africa and Japan in Business Class, although award seats on these routes are not easy to find.

Award rules and fees

Keep these rules in mind when you plan an award:

  • A free stopover is allowed on a roundtrip award flight. If your flight includes Star partners, you can have a stopover if your award costs at least 60,000 miles in Economy or 90,000 miles in Business Class.
  • The refund fee before the flight is $25, which is reasonable compared to U.S. based programs. For no-shows, the miles refund fee is $50.
  • Your Miles will expire 3 years after the date they were earned. You can extend them for another 3 years for $10 per 1,000 miles.
  • You can book an award ticket from 2 hours to 355 days before the flight.

All in all, Turkish’s addition to the Citi ThankYou® network is a very welcome development that makes premium cabin travel to Europe and beyond easier.


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